The Partisans of Vilna
After recently the seeing the intense and totally riveting German film about Hitler's final days, "Downfall," this fascinating documentary about Jewish resistance fighters from the doomed Vilna, Lithuania, ghetto offered a bittersweet counterpoint to the mad lunacy of Hitler as his dream of an Aryan nation crumbled around him.
Vilna was the Jewish cultural and religious scholarship capital for the Baltic Jews and one of the first liquidation targets for the S.S. The documentary, made 20 years ago, but only recently rediscovered after being released in DVD format, is largely based on the moving and emotional accounts provided by survivors of the Vilna Jewish partisan movement. It is woven together by a narrator who provides historical background to how Vilna got caught between the changing tides of war vis-a-vis the Germans and Soviets.
It is a film that provides a testament to the barbaric actions that occur when an ideology that demonizes people becomes official state policy. But its primary message is one of inspiration that determined and courageous individuals can fight back against a demonic opposition.
Yet, toward the end of the film, many ironies unfold. Jewish partisans fighting with other national partisan groups are almost killed by an anti-Semitic Polish unit leader. A member of the Jewish Vilna underground is punished by a Soviet partisan leader because the Jewish fighter won't kill a young captured German S.S. member, with whom he spent the night in conversation.
Fanatical, nightmarish ideologies sweep over people and become unstoppable forces. They thrive amidst chaos and on propaganda that offers "purification" and takes advantage of emotional appeals to "national honor," as Hitler and his brown shirts did during the weak governmental period of the Weimar Republic.
In the movie "Downfall" (which BuzzFlash will offer as a DVD in August), Joseph Goebbels dictates his "last testament" to Hitler's secretary as the Russians close in on the command bunker in Berlin. He wants posterity to note that he worked to create a society that would be "unblemished." To achieve such a psychotic vision of "perfection," all the Jews would need to be exterminated.
We couldn't help but think that those who don't take the likes of Limbaugh, Coulter, Pat Robinson, Tom DeLay, and Jerry Falwell -- just to name a few -- at their words, ought to see "Downfall" and the "Partisans of Vilna." Comparison of extremist right wing rhetoric with the Third Reich is often viewed as excessive and politically over the top.
But when Pat Robinson asserts that liberal activist judges (who include Reagan and Bush I appointed jurists to him) are a worse threat to America than Osama bin Laden, you ought to be a bit more open to the danger that such rhetoric poses. Or when Ann Coulter says that Timothy McVeigh should have picked the New York Times building to blow up. Or when a right wing radio host recently said that he'd like to shoot Michael Moore. Or when Charlton Heston said it might be good to hang Al Gore. Well, you get the picture.
Take them at their words. They too want an "unblemished" society as they seek an unattainable post-Armageddon world of imagined perfection. And if you are a secular, pro-democracy advocate who believes in the Constitution and the separation of church and state, you are "polluting" America.
So, if you haven't picked up yet on the fact that these pro-war advocates of a one-party fundamental Christian state believe that YOU are an enemy of THEIR state, then you should definitely see these films.
The Jews didn't think it could happen in the sophisticated European culture of Germany either -- and then it was too late. The crazed thugs came to power, did anything they needed to do to hold onto power, and started the engine running on a permanent war -- and the annihilation of a scapegoat.
Yes, it can happen here. It already has started. With the near complete control of the Federal judiciary, who will stop them? Antonin Scalia, our likely next Supreme Court Chief Justice, is already going around telling Jewish audiences (and we are not making this up) that they will be safe in a Christian state. (Apparently, the allegedly "brilliant" Nino has forgotten that Hitler was the leader of a Christian state.)
If Americans continue to sit on the sidelines and allow the lies, deceptions, and fanaticism to continue, they too may wonder how it came to be.
The Jewish partisans of Vilna emerged on the winning side, but when they returned to Vilna, the Jewish community had been liquidated, most of them shot to death in pits surrounding a hill, not far from the city itself.